(Amendments/corrections welcomed, this is mainly from memory.)
Crowd Awareness: SDCC is a really absurdly huge crowd of people, many of them dressed in Mandalorian battle armor. They won’t actually battle you. Still, a strategy for vibing with large crowds is essential for both personal enjoyment and public good. Friday and Saturday are the most mobbed days (think: the massive Weds & Thurs crowds combine to form Devastator on Friday morning), also the days when the best cosplay is on display. Download this pdf guide for quick essential information and maps.
Panels: If you’re into standing/sleeping overnight in long lines for the very popular panels (Hall H, Ballroom 20, 6A) by all means, follow your bliss. Note that 9 times out of 10, these days, the cool new content from the panels will be on the internet within an hour of being revealed.
Cosplay Etiquette: SDCC is a gigantic photo op for excellent cosplay from all universes; there is tacit agreement that you can take photos of the costumed people in the public space. Optimally, if you are going to publicize the image, it is good to (quickly/efficiently, with a card, or verbally) communicate the name of your site/blog/social feed; in all cases it is simply nice to acknowledge the cosplayer (but sometimes crowd flow makes this impossible, that happens). Pro Tip: If you see a costume you really like, it is okay to address the cosplayer by character name and request a picture, e.g:
You: Hi Kamala Khan, great costume, can I take your picture?
Kamala Cosplayer: Sure!
You: Hey you, Blue Tunic, I dunno who you are, can I photo you?
Cosplayer: Ehhh, I’m on my way somewhere.
COULD GO EITHER WAY:
You: Hi, I don’t know who you’re being, but I like your costume.
Cosplayer: SO GLAD I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO TELL YOU THAT I AM…(*whoever I’m dressed as*)
Point being, ideally the cosplay photo etiquette is a two-way street, even given the complications of crowd flow.
Food: Across the stairs-intensive Pedestrian Bridge towards Petco Park, you’ll find a cluster of food trucks which IMHO have the best balance of convenient and interesting food. Inside the convention center, it is mainly hot dogs and nachos, priced as if hot dogs were going extinct. All fast-food places in the Gaslamp are typically crowded — if you find a sandwich with no line in front of it, I recommend getting that sandwich. For sit-down meals, the Gaslamp has a zillion nice options, with varying levels of participatory nerdiness. The queue for Old Spaghetti Factory is an event in itself. Pro Tip: The sports bar at the Hilton Bayfront has food, drink, bar or table seating, not far from the action, not hugely crowded, good meeting spot/vantage point, moderately-pricey bar prices. (Update, this spot seems closed now.)
Drink, as opposed to Food: The San Diego Gaslamp is EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD at getting you a cocktail. There are MANY MANY BARS. There are no bars in the Convention Center proper, it is zoned more for coffee and energy drinks. The hotel bars typically are a good overlap point of Con/break-from-Con activity.
Wi-Fi: SDCC has a free public version of it, but also, keep your eyes up. You will never see such sights. Don’t get captured. Definitely stop and read something now and then, the whole event originated with people reading comic books. Please try to keep walkways clear and take your breaks in safe spots along the many walls and well-lit structures.
Shuttle Buses: USE THE SHUTTLE BUSES. Can’t recommend this enough. SDCC has a FREE shuttle bus system with routes to most of the major hotels in the area. They run fairly late into the night, to get you back to your staying-place after nightlife activity. Pro Tip: the Shuttle Bus system can be used to get from the airport to the convention center for free, but it’s a little tricky so you can msg me direct if you’re interested in that.
Bring Your Game Face! For those who have been to Anime Expo or Wondercon but never to SDCC, y’all know the deal, just a friendly reminder that it’s like 10X More Of That. Pro Tip: San Diego is gorgeous in the summer, also sunny and hot. Hydrate accordingly.
Shopping: Sunday is the best day to value shop on the main floor for books/toys/shirts etc. The merchants have incentive to reduce their inventory before they have to load out. However, most collectible SDCC exclusives will be grabbed up on Weds-Thurs (and subsequently relisted for sale online, boo).
Souvenirs: The FREE STUFF Table in the Pavilion is generally flyers and advertising; substantive free stuff like shirts, stickers, etc. is available on the main floor during specific time windows; with a little judicious research the schwag can be yours. Pro Tip: The Sails Pavilion, besides being the place for scheduled autographs/signings, has a lovely natural daylight for cosplay photography.
ABCs: Use the alphabetized sub-kingdoms of the main floor to keep you oriented: A is North, the Marriott and the Grand Hyatt, authentic comic-book longboxes; H is South, the Hilton and the bridge to the food trucks and awesome satellite events, also really astounding crowdedness (the lines going into the big panels). Pro Tip: Video games (as of recent years) are mainly clustered to the rear left of the main floor, in the G section, or in the adjacent large hotels; their natural crowd-attracting necessitated them being moved farther from the main entrance points. Pro Tip 2: Give love to Artists’ Alley, the small-business booths, the old-school comic book vendors along the borders of the main floor; they are all O.G. SDCC and less-intensely trafficked. The serious-claustrophobia areas arise around the centrally-located booths for Marvel, DC, HBO, etc.
There WILL be a Marvel Panel at 5:15 PM Saturday, Hall H. The crowd to get anywhere near it will be guaranteed nuts. Alternatively, around that time, bring your Resistance maintenance-tech cosplay and/or love for Rose Tico to the 2nd Rally For Rose gathering, sponsored by The Nerds Of Color, outdoors on the ocean side near the docked IMDB boat.
Syfy Does a Cosplay Karaoke Bus: Cosplay and karaoke participation both optional, as well as AWESOME. ‘Nuff said.
Follow me at @dommah on Twitter or Instagram for more updates during the week! See you at #SDCC2019!